Raphia australis

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Raphia australis
Raphia australis.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Arecales
Family: Arecaceae
Genus: Raphia
R. australis
Binomial name
Raphia australis
Oberm. & Strey

Raphia australis, the giant palm or rafia, is a species of raffia palm in the Arecaceae family. It is found around Kosi Bay in southern Mozambique and northeastern KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. It is threatened by habitat loss caused by drainage of its habitat for agriculture; it is being threatened in the Bobole Special Reserve but is more secure in the Kosi Bay area.


Raphia australis

Raphia australis is a large palm with a single trunk, growing to a height of 24 m (80 ft). The leaves are long and arching, the bases of the leaf stalks sheathing the trunk. The leaves are pinnate, the centre stem or rachis being robust and brown, while the leaflets have a single fold and are shiny green above and waxy and bluish-green below. The main veins and the margins of the leaflets are spiny. This palm was for a long time thought to be the same species as Raphia vinifera, but that has proved not to be the case, the most obvious difference being that the flower stems of R. australis are erect while those of R. vinifera dangle downwards.[2]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Raphia australis is endemic to Gaza Province in southern Mozambique and near Kwangwanase at Kosi Bay in KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. There are four subpopulations, the largest one being at Manhiça District in Mozambique where there are about 4,000 mature individuals. This palm grows in swamps, peat bogs and seasonally flooded dunes.[1]


Raphia australis flowers when it is between twenty and forty years old, sets fruit and dies, although the dying process may take up to three years. The tree has specialised aerial roots known as pneumatophores to help it to breathe.[1] The seeds are eaten and dispersed by the palm-nut vulture, which is widespread in other coastal regions of Africa but in southern Africa only occurs in association with this palm.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Matimele, H.A.; Massingue, A.O.; Raimondo, D.; Bandeira, S.; Burrows, J.E.; Darbyshire, I. & Timberlake, J. (2016). "Raphia australis". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T30359A85955288. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T30359A85955288.en. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
  2. ^ Brink, M.; Achigan-Dako, E.G. (2012). Fibres. PROTA. p. 399. ISBN 978-92-9081-481-8.
  3. ^ Gidlow, R.M. (2002). "The history of exchange controls in South Africa". South African Journal of Economic History. 17 (1–2): 25–48. doi:10.1080/10113430209511143. ISSN 1011-3436.